Jude Law maybe one our finest actors. But that doesn’t mean he’s funny.
However, I won’t pin this past weekend’s thoroughly average installment on Law. He made Sean Penn good on his word, and proved to be an extremely talented thespian, seamlessly transitioning from Shakespearean actor to Russian ballet dancer to Spanish serial killer to Jude Law to American lawyer. If the reminders that Law recently appeared on Broadway as Hamlet weren’t evidence enough, the way Law breezily donned new accents showed that he’s indeed meant for the stage. However, acting talent alone doesn’t result a funny show, and outside of a couple bright spots, this one sorta just sat there without much life.
Even though last week people had proclaimed the Zack Galifianakis-hosted episode as the strongest of the season before it had even aired, I think that show suffered from a sentiment that the show would be funny on the virtue of Galifanakis’ presence alone. Indeed, he did appear in the best bits (and probably the highlight of the night was his monologue, which was just borrowed from his usual stand-up act), but when he wasn’t on screen the show kinda fizzled. Even some of the sketches that featured the bearded one, another Kissing Family, the CNN Situation Room, were half-baked. And to confuse matters even more, I found the show hosted by Jennifer Lopez the week before to be surprisingly okay. She wasn’t a legendary host, and nor were there any real buzzworthy sketches, but after the Olympic break the cast seemed to come back with Olympic fever, energized to put on a good show, maybe not hilarious, but one with spunk. We’ve talked before about the correlation between the host and the quality of the show, and the chicken or the egg question of does a good host makes for good sketches or vice versa. Well, I think these last few weeks, and really this season as a whole shows that there’s no easy solution to this puzzle. You can have a host like Joseph Gordon Levitt who was literally climbing the walls. But that didn’t mean the show was especially hilarious. And you can have a host like Charles Barkley, who cue-carded his way through ninety sweat-soaked minutes to rather superb results. So obviously it helps when the host is genuinely funny (Galifianakis), supremely charismatic (Jon Hamm) or filled with childlike exuberance (Taylor Swift), but we’ve seen that a lot of it also just depends on the quality of the material and the energy of the cast, whether the host is Jude Law or January Jones.
Which is why this week (and last) the worst sketches were the recurring bits. Not that recurring sketches can’t be funny, they certainly can, but for the most part they’re just lazy, and add nothing to the original model. We saw that this past week with another “Secret Word,” and especially with “Arraignment,” a lifeless follow-up to the court stenographer sketch with Hamm. And while I just shot down these returning sketches, the worst piece of the night was probably the first-timer “Talk Show with Ravish,” which was both not funny and borderline offensive, even for a comedy show, and even for the last sketch of the night. And while I normally don’t find Will Forte’s ten minutes to 1am sketches especially amusing, I would have far preferred one of those absurdist pieces to this. At least those are ambitious.
I actually liked Law’s rambling, long-winded monologue in which he tediously described his experience playing Hamlet. It wasn’t Galifianakis on the piano, but I’ll take this laid back exposition over another musical number anytime. And I think it showed a little of Law’s personality, his willingness to poke fun at the pomposity of Shakespeare, and that he’s not just a sex crazed wanker.Vodpod videos no longer available.
Law returned to the Hamlet fodder later in the show, with a reimagination of the audition process, featuring competition like Bill Hader as Al Pacino and Bobby Moynihan as Nathan Lane (dead on!), as well as sage advice from Jason Sudeikis in the guise of Sam Elliott’s Big Lebowski character, which was probably the highlight of the evening (especially how he slunk out of his chair but remained in view). This is the sketch that should have been on at 12:50am.Vodpod videos no longer available.
But my favorite sketch of the night was probably their Twighlight Zone “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” parody. It was a bit of a throw-back sketch, a simple twist on a classic plot that worked to great results. Plus, it allowed them to put all of the members of Pearl Jam on the wing of a plane, and cemented Bobby Moynihan’s place as MVP of the night (a distinction begun with his strong showing in the cold open as disgraced Congressman Eric Massa).Vodpod videos no longer available.
So all and all it was the kind of episode you’d expect from SNL at the tail end of three weeks of new shows. In fact, it seems like they really ran out of gas in the home stretch because that was probably the longest “goodbyes” in show history (the camera literally just lingered with an obstructed wide shot of the stage long after the credits stopped rolling). Either Jude Law somehow went through his monologue far too quickly, or they simply exhausted all their halfway decent material (and this included replaying the “Kick Spit Underground Rock Festival” commercial). Also, far too Sudeikis-light.
But what wasn’t Sudeikis-light was my favorite sketch of the past three weeks, maybe of the whole season, the Smash Mouth as boogeymen bit from the J Lo episode. It was obscure and weird and awesome.Vodpod videos no longer available.
See you in hell suckers! Or in a week when Tina Fey Returns!